“First Week In” not exactly filled with TLC

Earlier this week I posted about a series focusing on people on death row. Now, thanks to TLC — the same people who bring you series like Cake Boss — I get to post about a series describing something of the other extreme. First Week In premieres on TLC Thursday, March 15 at 9pm ET/PT, and, as the title suggests, is a show about the first week inmates spend incarcerated for their crimes.

There’s a certain “scared straight” dynamic at work in this series, without question. No matter how tough you are — or think you are — out in the world, there has to be an undeniable and palpable feeling of helplessness at suddenly being stripped of your civil liberties and at the mercy of the state. Some people will always put up a gruff exterior under any circumstances, but entering the prison system is entering a new and unfamiliar world, and no matter how adaptable you are, an unfamiliar world that’s colder and harsher than the outside by design has to rattle a person on some level. And that’s what you see in First Week In.

The criminal types portrayed in First Week In are more varied than you might think. Sure, there are thugs — the premiere episode features prisoners convicted of kidnapping, robbery and pimping — but far more mundane cases are part of the series too, like the attorney cited for contempt of court who has to spend a stretch behind bars. Or the pre-med student who risks blowing his whole career for a DUI. But whatever the transgression, whoever the person, the only TLC they can expect is the knowledge that they’re going to have their initial difficult moments in the clink broadcast for all the world to see as part of First Week In. And if they’re only on the inside for a short time, that might be a fate worse than the actual prison experience itself.